For thousands of years, sea level has served as an essential, visible physical standard that affects natural and human processes. But it’s not a constant. Rapid, obvious changes in coastal water levels are caused by tides and storms. Millennial-scale, climate-induced changes are less noticeable on human timescales, but they represent a moving baseline for the local and rapid changes. Sea level changes affect marine ecosystems, habitats, shoreline and wetland erosion and accretion processes as well as human population centers.
To understand the local impacts of rising sea levels, researchers use direct measurements of water levels, tidal ranges and rates of change. Knowledge of modern tidal datums and their relationships to sea-level tracking ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and salt marshes are essential to geologists who interpret the geo-biologic record of these environments to reconstruct paleo sea levels. The work brings together experts in coastal oceanography, geology, ecology, geodesy and marine biology.